A corseted heroine and determined detective battle the supernatural and each other to find a formula promising either eternal life or instant death.
The deaths and disappearances of magical researchers in England and the U.S. spur intrigue in the latest melodramatic gothic fantasy from Hieber (The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart, 2012, etc.). Both nations are on the hunt for immortality, and high-society Manhattanite and “sensitive” Clara Templeton and London Metropolitan policeman Harold Spire lead the chase in this hyperventilating version of the 1880s. Spiritualist Clara must find out who killed her team of Eterna Project researchers, including her secret lover, who is now a loitering spirit. “You're at the center of the storm. Be worthy of the squall,” another ghostly visitor urges Clara as she bows under the weight of sorrow in one of the finest lines of this richly embellished novel. Spire tries to reconcile his desire to uncover the demonic cult infiltrating all levels of English society with the call to patriotic duty from Queen Victoria, who demands that he steal for England the Eterna team's purported solution to untimely death. As the narrative crisscrosses the Atlantic, each covert operation builds up a ragtag team of quirky characters. In a story juggling many elements and many perspectives, the teams’ purposes bubble up slowly, and their adventuresome trials are both vague and baggy. While Hieber carves out a chillingly reimagined Gilded Age in careful detail, the motivations of the host of characters do not convince. An abrupt ending leaves the reader assuming there will be a sequel to sort out the jumble.
Gloomy froth for the teen goth enamored of petticoats and séances.